What’s So Exciting About Book Adaptations?

Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Kingkiller Chronicle” was recently optioned by Lionsgate for not just a movie, not just a TV, and not just a video game but all three. This has caused a stir amongst fans of the book all across the social media landscape while people who’ve never read the books are shrugging as they read this.

Put your favorite book in place of “The Name of the Wind” and imagine how you would feel. Are you excited? Finally, that book you fell in love with is going to be a movie, a television show, and a video game. It’s exciting news! Why though?
The readers who make up a fandom around a certain series have become savvy to how books become movies, TV shows, and video games. We’ve also seen how those adaptations can disappoint. I’ve written extensively on why our expectations for adaptations can be harmful, often expecting too much or maybe too hard to it without understand how these adaptations are made.
I don’t stand alone with the knowledge of the arduous process of making these projects nor have I entirely kept my Sword of Adaptation Criticism sheathed in regards to the last two seasons of “Game of Thrones.” The news of Patrick Rothfuss’ deal did beg the question, once my own excitement died down, why do we get so excited for news about adaptations in the first place?

The reality is: Do you have a favorite character? There’s a chance he or she may be cut from the script. Do you have a scene that cry every time you read it? Or feeling a swelling in your chest when that satisfying moment comes on the next page? It might not make it in there at all. That line from the book you quote all the time? It might be said by a completely different character because the one that originally said it was cut and now one word of it was changed so it’s just a little bit off from the original. That line though is of course everyone favorite who has seen the movie / show so you have to hear it said wrong all the time and attributed to someone completely different. Lucky you! That subplot you thought really developed the protagonist, the one that really got into his head, well there’s no time for that anymore.

These are just some of the pitfalls of adaptations. It’s not like the author can write the scripts, pick the casts (though sometimes they have a hand in that), designs the settings, costumes, and props. He or she is too busy writing their next book. Even if the author took the first crack at the screenplay there could be three others who rewrite next, and all of them have their own perspective on the series.

Just look what happened with the screenplay adaptations of the Harry Potter books. Steve Kloves may have set JK Rowling at ease when he told her Hermione was his favorite character, but he made the trio completely unbalanced by giving Hermione all of Ron’s best moments and dialog in addition to her own shining moments.

The fact is there is going to be change when it comes to the adaptation, and a lot of fans of the books are not going to like it. So why do we get excited at the prospect?
Because, and I think a lot of readers will agree, when you love a book you want others to love it too. Adaptations are the easiest gateway to that. I have many friends who decided to read “The Lord of the Rings” and “A Song of Ice and Fire” because of the Peter Jackson’s trilogy and the HBO series. As a result it has led to many great discussions and conversations about them to an English Major like myself, nothing is better than discussions about books.

Also, there is a bliss that comes when they get it right. I remember that feeling watching the pilot for “Game of Thrones” from the beginning when the gates to Castle Black opened to the end when Jaime Lannister lamented the things he does for love. Imagine that opening scene when we’re introduced to the Waystone Inn in whatever “The Kingkiller Chronicle’s” adaptation becomes is exciting. We want to see the world we imagine for so long.

The second question I asked myself after I asked why do we excited is why do we need adaptations? There’s a reason why writers need adaptations. Financially, being a novelist is chaotic. There is no steady pay but peaks and valley. If you’re a writer and you are entering that valley period an optioning deal may be what keeps you afloat. For readers, though, why isn’t the book enough? I’m speaking generally, of course, because there are definitely people out there that don’t feel the need for the adaptation and they’re self-aware enough to not indulge. If the story is still ongoing, it’s a chance to get more. If the story is over, it’s a chance for it to be revitalized for a new audience and for the reader to relive the experience.

It may not seem like it, but we want to like adaptations. Who doesn’t want new favorite movie or show? How nice is it to turn on the TV and see a story we love on it? We want more of the story and the world. That’s why it is exciting, the prospect of more of that story that make us happy.

Featured image “Wise Man’s Fear” by Marc Simonetti. 

Can A Well-Made Sequel Improve The Original?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how bewildered I was over Joe Abercrombie’s “Half the World” being such an improvement over the first book in the Shattered Sea series, “Half A King”. Now that the third book in the series has been released I decided to reread “Half A King” and see if my opinion has changed.

It has. I don’t have Patrick Rothfuss’s hype for the book clouding my opinion anymore nor does the predictability of the plot bother me because obviously having read it before I already know what happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way anymore because it was overhyped and the plot was predictable. However, there are details that I missed the first time around that made Yarvi’s fate at the end seem less disappointing and more foreshadowed. His meeting with Mother Gundring at the end set up the continuing conflict for the rest of the series and I felt like I completely missed it the first time.

My point is, “Half The World” changed my opinion of “Half A King.” That usually doesn’t happen with sequels from my experience. Sequels tend to be less than or equal to the original. A poor sequel can make an opinion of the first stronger. A poor sequel can run the enjoyment of the first. What if, though, you disliked the original but loved the sequel as the case with myself and the Shattered Sea series.

What if “Prometheus 2” fixes everything about the first one? What if “Alice Through The Looking Glass” takes the taste of disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” out of our mouths? What if another Indiana Jones could make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” worth watching? Most movies don’t get that chance and for good reason. Making a movie requires a lot of money, therefore, to invest it into a sequel to an underperforming movie would be a bad investment. Then again, not all poorly received movies do badly at the box office nor is a poor opinion of anything completely objective.

With video games, it’s more than the story you have to think about. The gameplay can completely change from one game to another. “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of the first “Mass Effect”, but the gameplay so much improved it makes playing the first one difficult to endure. “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” takes place in the same universe and the share the same history but the stories are self-contained and the gameplay is radically different enough they could have no connection whatsoever. “Borderlands 2” takes the concept of the first and blows it up twice as large to great success.

Back to books, should the first book of a series be judged on its own or as part of the whole? Yes and no. For me at least it’s a case by case basis. The disappointing epilogue of “Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows” doesn’t change my enjoyment of the rest of the books in the series but “The Well of Ascension”, the second book in the “Mistborn” series managed to ruin the first book and the third for me. Though I still enjoy it, “A Feast for Crows” is slow compared to three previous books in “A Song of Ice and Fire” but it doesn’t take anything away from them. “The Lord of the Rings” completely changes the importance of BIlbo’s journey in “The Hobbit”, but it doesn’t suddenly become any less a children’s novel.  Before it was revealed that Go Set A Watchman was revealed to be a first draft never supposed to be published I had decided to never read it knowing it would ruin Atticus Finch for me based on the news that he was now an elderly racist. Don’t even get me started how “The Silmarillion” both changes and doesn’t change “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the same time.

So a sequel can change the perception of the original. It can improve it and worsen it. The question comes down to like it did with “Half the World”, whether you should give the sequel to an original you were not fond of a chance? Books, movies, video games, television shows can all cost money to consume one way or another. You may not have the money or you may have too busy a life to risk the chance. Keep in mind though what you may be missing out on. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth risking your time and money.


My Introduction to Lore: The Legend of Zelda.

Recently I read this article by Phil Owen on io9 titled I Care About Star Wars Because It Introduced Me To ‘Lore.’  In it he says:

“For me and many other fans, Star Wars is not a series of movies but a setting, a place. And Star Wars was the first property I enjoyed growing up where should I want more stories in its settings I could always have them. And it wasn’t a case of, as it is in many game franchises praised for having lots of lore, characters in a book telling us about past events or info in a codex — nearly all the lore was in books or comics somewhere.”

And I thought, “yeah, Star Wars was definitely the first time I cared about the world of a property beyond its main storyline. That was until I received this in the mail:

Master Sword, yo.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Graphic Novel by Shotaro Ishinomori.

This is a graphic novel, a reprint of a comic that was both printed in Nintendo Power then collected into a paperback in the 90’s. I found the paperback version shortly before The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out.

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I Wish I had Chrono Trigger as a kid.

Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite SNES games, but also one I never actually played on Super Nintendo. To my great shame I didn’t discover it until they remade it for the Nintendo DS.

When I did finally play all I kept thinking was I wish I had this game as a kid. It would of been up there with Super Mario World, Kirby Superstar, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country as one of those games I would replay again and again. Now as an adult I don’t have the same kind of free time as I did as a child.

So many elements of this game would of hit my sweet spots when O was young. Great music (which I now realize Super Mario RPG borrowed heavily from), an epic story, time travel, science fiction, robots, talking animals, legendary swords, multiple endings, silly humor, and a straight forward turn based RPG system.

Ob well, I’ll just have to find the time.


Memories of the Simpsons.

Currently on FXX they’re showing every Simpsons episode ever, as the tagline suggests. I sit down in the living room, turn on the television and get flooded with nostalgia.

It reminds of a time when new episodes were on Thursday and I had to choose between that and the show Dinosaurs to watch. I remember my mom complaining about Married with Children, how the main character was a pig and no one was allowed to watch it.

Then they moved it to Sunday night and I sort of lost track of it. That was until 5th grade when I met who would be one of my best friends all throughout school, Jeff. When he wasn’t coming over and kicking my ass in Super Mario Kart, playing with Z-Bots or showing me how to beat the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past we were stopping everything we were doing to watch reruns of the Simpsons at 7 p.m, then at 7:30 p.m., then at both 7 and 7:30.

When the Nintendo 64 came out, the entire class was enamored with who shot Mr. Burns. Only one kid guessed it right and no one believed him and when we did find out it was to be honest a bitter disappointment. We didn’t care though because the show went on being hilarious and we went on playing video games.

Even in 1998 when The Legend of Zelda; Ocarina of Time finally came out after two years of constant delays Jeff and I would be on the phone saying what part of the game we were up to, where we had found certain secrets and heart pieces but oh wait, it’s 7:00 time to watch two back to back episodes of the Simpson. Unless it was Sunday in which we stopped to watch new episodes.

Watching this marathon reminded me how much I watched the Simpsons as a kid. There are w hole episodes that I can anticipate the next line or the next joke.

This isn’t a post to bash about the quality of the Simpsons now because I simply stopped watching it so whom am to judge it?

What I will say is that the older episodes managed to both pull at the heart strings and still be funny. I’d go into details but I’m missing the next episode.

The Last Generation Games of Personal Significance to Me.

     The last generation of consoles (Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 3) for the most part is over. I have no plans to purchase the new systems until the price drops and their libraries fill up with quality games. That is quality games I cannot buy on Steam during one of their sales for 50 percent less than retail price. This continues to become a smaller number as time goes on. If you do a quick google search you can see that most systems don’t begin to hit their stride until a year after they come out.
     I specifically own a Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii covered in dust but this isn’t disparaging in anyway to Playstation 3. A lot of great games came out exclusively for the PS3 and some of the games on this list are also on that system but I never wanted to buy one. The Xbox 360 got me back into gaming that I had shied from in the early years of high school replacing it with a love of music, not realizing I could do both. An ex-girlfriend specifically got me back into gaming when she had me try Dead Rising, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Gears of War at her house. In 2007 I had only dated one other gamer five years before with all the exes in between either dismissing video games as childish or irritated that it took time away from spending with them. So when the assistant manager at my job was selling a barely used Xbox 360 I took it as an opportunity to buy one so we may share in something we both enjoyed doing. Unfortunately the relationship didn’t last long enough to see that happen but that fall line-up of games for the 360 got me back into gaming at full throttle with the likes of Halo 3, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and The Orange Box.
     The number of games I bought for the Xbox 360 matched the amount I had as a kid for Super Nintendo Entertainment System and doubled what I had for Nintendo 64 and Nintendo GameCube combined. These are the five that had the biggest impact on me. Impact is a bit vague as there is not set criteria in how I am judging these games. When I chose these five I’m thinking of the time I spent playing them, the world that the developers built and the stories and characters created and developed within that world. Two of these are a series of games. Be warned, there will be spoilers.

5. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

     I wonder how many people besides me played Fallout 3 before Oblivion? As previously started, I first tried this game on my ex-girlfriend’s Xbox 360 to which I wasted most of the time creating the ugliest character I could and then remember none of what I did when I actually bought the game two years later. I think she was frustrated I wasn’t taking it as seriously as I should. She had hours into her saves on that game and I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I would soon have saves with similar amount of hours. To go from the bleak landscape of the post-nuclear apocalypse to the lush lands of Cyrodiil was quite the change, a welcome one. This game was beautiful but insanely difficult for me compared to Fallout 3, mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t even know you were supposed to repair your items until I had almost completed the game. I would end up saving before almost any encounter with an enemy because I was constantly being killed, needing to load my last save and try some other strategy. Most of those strategies involved running away to fight a lesser creature so I could level up. Navigating through the gates of Oblivion was a constant test of my skill and every quest I completed was done with little health left. While a lot of the faces were goofy looking in hindsight I still look back at this game with fond nostalgia.

4. Portal & Portal 2.

     Games have tried before to be funny, mostly the hack kind of funny with jokes you expect a comedian from the 80’s to make in front of a brick wall and then never to be seen again. Where Portal and its sequel succeed in not only being a hilarious video game by video game standards but other standards of comedy. That’s great but this is a video game, what about the actual gameplay? The first person puzzle mechanic using a gun that creates portals takes baby steps from teaching you how to get to the exit then steps it up with teaching you how to use velocity to complete the puzzle. All of this is framed by the science fiction setting of a futuristic research facility in which you are the guinea pig in experiments by the psychopathic A.I. computer that makes quips and insults about your weight. Throw in your badass but silent female protagonist and you have a game that used all of its aspects to its full potential where other games couldn’t even get one correct often sacrificing one for the other.

3. The Mass Effect series.

     I’ll get this out of the way now, I didn’t hate the ending nor did I really love it. I thought it was wrong for them to change the ending due to fan backlash and I was well aware that my choices ultimately would not matter. It was BioWare’s story to tell, not mine. What made Mass Effect so fun was the illusion of choice. There’s only two other games on this list I played more than Mass Effect 2 and they fill the first and second position. I loved my customized Commander Shepard who thanks to EA’s code they give you was able to tweak in the second game to fit the upgrade appearance. I loved the cast of characters (except Ashley due to her speciesism) they gave you and how you gained their friendship by talking to them, each with their own personal quirks, failures and personalities.
     How will the series be looked at in the future? Will it be considering the original Star Wars trilogy of games or just another trilogy that introduced the trend of moral choices in games? What I do know is that the difference choices, however much they mattered to the overall story, were fun enough to keep me playing the game repeatedly, well, almost. While I repeatedly played and beat the first and second the third game felt so final that I have never played it again after beating. I haven’t touched the downloadable content nor have I taking the varying paths possible that I could of. The third game wrapped up all the storylines so thoroughly for me that I do not know if I’ll ever play it again. It was only after writing this that I realized I had lent my copy to one of best friends who had played the series through with me and that almost two years after it came out he still has my copy of it.

2. Red Dead Redemption

     What the Grand Theft Auto series has always lacked since Grand Theft Auto 3 has been any heart to it’s story with characters that you care about. Niko Belic’s arc within Grand Theft Auto 4 came close but was just out of reach. So Rockstar Games is left asking the question of how can they create a realistic world with unrealistic high levels of violence with a well written story with fleshed out characters. There was no other choice but to make a western where protagonist John Marston struggles against the wilderness, the changing world and his past as an outlaw. Along with the story, the setting is perfect for gameplay, you shoot people, you hunt, you ride on horseback, bring in bounties, play card games and if you want, hogtie a woman and put her on the train tracks. All the while through blood and violence you develop a attachment to John Marston’s stoic man-of-few-words personality only to get your heart broken at the end.
     What Red Dead Redemption gets right is themes of westerns that no other Wild West game has gotten right before while keeping the create chaotic violence nature of the Grand Theft Auto series with cowboys and horses instead of mobsters and cars. It has the revenge story, the ranch story, the outlaw story and the marshall story all within one game. When you play this game you have fun but also get told a story worthy of the great Westerns of cinema. When they made this game you can feel Rockstar wasn’t afraid to escape the tropes they were known for, with unexpected quiet moments along with the loud blood rushing moments. It’s a shame this game has never come to PC dooming it to the die with the previous generations of systems.

1. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

     Skyrim is not perfect. The quests can become repetitive at times, there was many bugs, and you have to create your own exceptional loot rather than finding unique ones that you found in Oblivion. What kept me coming back to Skyrim and logging in over 200 hours on just my Xbox 360 copy alone was I never had to play the same way twice. I could be a Breton battlemage, wielding a sword in one hand and a fireball in the other completely aligned with the Stormcloaks but secretly head of the Dark Brotherhood. I could be an Orc dual-wielding axes who can turn into a werewolf completely taking out any person who gets in my way. I could be a High Elf mage, earning my way to head of the Mages’ College while fighting the forces of the dragon Alduin. All of this plus there was no set path, once I went one way I didn’t have to stay on that path I could just explore the wide and beautiful world of Skyrim that Bethesda has created. There is something very satisfying in earning the skills in whatever particular abilities your using, hearing that sound effect as you watch the blue bar increase towards your next level.
     I think satisfying is the word that keeps me coming back to the game. Video games are pure escapism mixed with the illusion of achievement and Skyrim satisfies that in me more than most other games. It’s a fantasy world filled with sword and sorcery which I am drawn to with mixes of humor, violence, the hero’s journey, the byronic hero and the grand scale storytelling mixed with this system of achievement that satisfies my brain. It’s so satisfying when you successfully sneak up on someone with a dagger, when you lockpick that chest with only one lockpick left in your inventory, when you get that slow motion scene of the arrow going into the giant finishing off his last bit of health, and when you successfully defeated a draugr deathlord when you’re horrible outmatched simply by using the right dragon shout to delay him in order to heal. Other games have come and gone but Skyrim for me holds the most replay value for a game that I have played so far. Here’s to hoping I won’t be waiting long for Elder Scrolls VI.

Runners up: Street Fighter IV, Alan Wake, Batman: Arkham series and Bioshock. 

This was written with the help of The Video Game Style Guide and Reference Manual by David Thoms, Kyle Orland and Scott Steinberg and the AP Style Handbook 2013

A Link to the Past: An 11 year old birthday.

     So I decided to make a separate blog from my Tumblr because Tumblr tends to lend itself to the reblogging of images more so than just pure text. I’ll still update it with texts and if I can figure out how to link them together I will but I chose blogger because it’s just basic writing without any coding. I had actually checked out WordPress.org first only to be left utterly confused thinking “but when can I just start writing the blog?”

     I’m writing this now on my 28th Birthday. I’ve spent it so far being pretty boring. Sleeping in, playing hookie from my class, getting a bagel, and watching all the extras for The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Rings.
     I was thinking of birthday’s long past and which of them stood out to me. One of them that stood out in my mind when I gave it some thought was thanks to the news from Nintendo that they would be making a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for their handheld platform; the Nintendo 3DS.

     In 1996 I had never played the Super Nintendo edition of the game. At that point I had played the original and the Adventure of Link very briefly, as I was young and utterly terrible at Video Games at the time. I had just become friends with a fellow named Jeff who I’d remain close friends with for a decade with afterwards. He was shocked to learn that I had never played A Link to the Past when I explained I didn’t understand what the big deal was around the hype for Zelda 64 as it was called at the time.

     Our friendship was founded on video games. The memory is hazy as to who first talked to who but it was definitely about Mario Kart and one of us definitely was boasting their skill over the other. So I invited Jeff over, he trounced me in Mario Kart and a friendship began.

     So when I turned eleven, the plan was for Jeff to stay the night intending to watch movies and play video games all night with junk food, soda and pizza. What ended up happening which was a shock to me was that Jeff gave me a copy of the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I remember being kind of moved. Back then however much it cost probably around forty dollars was more money than I had ever had at one time so far this guy who I had only been friends with for only about six months to get me a video game I could never afford myself was amazing to me.

     We spent the entire night playing that game from beginning to end. I don’t remember going to sleep until the very end. Jeff made me play the first three dungeons all on my own including the Hyrule Castle part in the beginning every once in awhile telling me where I can find an item or a heart piece I would never. Once thought you end up in the Dark World I was god awful at the game. Then I basically watched Jeff play the second half of the game with ease going on the philosophy when he died I would take over and vice versa with me dying more often than he did. 

     By the time we had gotten to the ending and defeated Ganon it was six in the morning. I wanted to start a new file and play it all again myself and Jeff wanted to go to sleep. Realizing how tired I really was I opted for sleep. With that I was hooked on the Legend of Zelda, going back to play the others and easily just as hyped for Zelda 64 as Jeff was. When we played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask we’d spend long conversations on the phone letting each other know how to beat certain dungeons, where heart pieces were, and what places we needed to go to continue.